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The Observer's Perspective on the Peregrine Lander: One Error Won't Stop Private Companies from Reaching the Moon | Editorial by The Observer

The Observer’s Perspective on the Peregrine Lander: One Error Won’t Stop Private Companies from Reaching the Moon | Editorial by The Observer

The recent period of lunar exploration has been quite challenging. Scientists and space experts had planned for 2024 to mark the start of mankind’s renewed efforts to explore the moon. A bold program, largely funded by Nasa’s CLPS initiative of $2.6 billion, was developed. This program included launching the Peregrine robot lander last week, with a subsequent crewed mission, Artemis II, scheduled for September to orbit the moon with a team of four. These missions would pave the way for a series of future projects, both robotic and crewed, aimed at establishing a lunar colony within the next ten years.

Unfortunately, these ambitious goals have not had a successful beginning. Just after its launch on Monday, the team in charge of the mission announced that Peregrine, despite a perfect launch, experienced a significant decrease in propellant and would not be able to successfully land on the moon. Additionally, it was announced that Nasa has chosen to delay its Artemis II mission for one year due to safety concerns.

The anticipated progress in lunar exploration for the year has been overshadowed by setbacks, leading to allegations that space engineers lack the determination and capability to revisit the moon. Despite numerous successful lunar landings in the previous century, critics question why we cannot replicate them now. Is something crucial missing?

The criticism is unjustified. Nasa has changed its approach from the time of the Apollo missions. This time, there is a greater emphasis on involving private companies. For instance, Peregrine was developed and sent into space by commercial enterprises, in contrast to the fully government-funded moon missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

Looking at it this way, private companies – with some assistance from NASA – are anticipated to shoulder the majority of the risks and therefore reap the majority of the rewards. While the loss of Peregrine was a significant setback, experts believe that companies will gain the necessary skills to ensure future missions are successful. They use Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket launch program as a prime illustration of how business can enter the space industry market.

When allowing businesses to use the moon for profit, it is fair for them to receive rewards for their risks. However, there is a risk that an unregulated rush to exploit the moon could lead to negative outcomes.

Several locations on the moon’s surface are optimal for conducting important scientific studies, such as researching gravitational waves and observing black holes. These areas are thought to potentially contain valuable resources like water and minerals. Astronomers will caution United Nations officials in the coming weeks that these sites may be targeted by companies building colonies, which could diminish their scientific value.

A team established by the International Astronomical Union is aiming to improve international agreements regarding the usage of resources from outer space.

These discussions may take a long time, but they are essential in order to prevent the destruction of one-of-a-kind lunar sites that are important to scientific research.

Despite facing challenges last week, the lunar exploration program will continue and diligent caution will be necessary in managing its progress in the next ten years.

Source: theguardian.com